THE KILLING BAY
A compelling murder mystery set on the windswept Faroe Islands. When activists arrive to protest the traditional whale hunts, English DI Jan Reyna finds himself caught between the two sides…
Faroese detective Hjalti Hentze is called to the scene of a murder, one which he suspects is connected to the violence between the islanders and activists.
Ári answered on the sixth ring. “Do we have an identity for the body?” Ári asked. “Not at the moment.” “All right, well you’d better go ahead and see what it looks like,” Ári told him, and Hentze heard a trace of annoyance in his voice: he wouldn’t like missing out. “Once you’ve assessed it we can go from there. I’ll start back as soon as I can, but it’s bound to take a while.” “Okay, no problem,” Hentze said. By the time Hentze got to the station in Tórshavn, Dánjal Michelsen was already there. Dánjal had worked in CID long enough to know what they’d need and he was already getting forensic cases out of storage. Then it was just a matter of organising half a dozen uniformed officers to go with them and driving in convoy to Gamlarætt to wait for the ferry, ten minutes away.
Someone had suggested using the Search and Rescue boat to get to Sandoy, and if Ári Niclasen had been there Hentze knew that was probably what they’d have done. But it seemed unnecessarily flamboyant to Hentze, and probably no faster once you took into account that they’d arrive without transport at the other end. No, some things dictated their own pace and couldn’t be hurried. The dead woman wasn’t going anywhere.
An hour and a half after he’d first got the call, Hentze was on the road beside Húsavík’s newly re-clad community hall, in a breeze spitting rain. Someone had had the foresight to open the hall, which was both good and bad. Good in the sense that it kept the concerned and curious villagers in one place and away from the scene; bad because it meant they had shelter and somewhere to sit and so were not inclined to go home.
Hentze had stationed three uniformed officers at the access points to the flat promontory of grass beyond the football pitch just in case more sightseers turned up, then he’d gone over the basic facts again with Martin Hjelm. A woman called Maria Hammer had found the body and she had been taken home by her husband, suffering from shock. Martin was unsure precisely how many people had been to look at the body before he’d arrived, but he was pretty sure that no one had interfered with it. One man had used experience gleaned from TV cop shows and kept people away – once he’d looked for himself, of course. With that sorted out, Hentze sent an officer to Maria Hammer’s house to take a statement and then decided he might as well take advantage of the fact that a good number of villagers were gathered in the hall.
“Let’s find out if anyone saw anything odd or suspicious around here in the last twenty-four to forty-eight hours,” Hentze told Dánjal. “Especially vehicles coming or going.” He fastened up his forensic oversuit and leaned on the car while he placed plastic overshoes on his boots.
“Shall I send them away when we’ve done that?” Dánjal asked. With his short-cropped hair and tough-guy looks he was someone who could get rid of even the most determined busybody.
“Ask them to go home, yeh,” Hentze said. “We’ll be here for a while so we’ll use the hall as a base. It will be good to have a place for breaks, especially if it starts to rain harder.”
“Okay. I’ll see if there’s any tea or coffee in the kitchen.” Dánjal turned to go inside. “Dánjal?” “Yeh?” Dánjal looked back. “Find out if anyone took pictures on their phones. If they did, confiscate them as evidence.” “Evidence?” “We don’t need anyone putting photos up on the internet.” Especially if she was one of the
Alliance people, Hentze thought. With a camera round his neck and a forensic case in his hand, Hentze set off towards the stone huts near the foreshore, deliberately taking the longest and least direct path. Two hundred metres, he estimated, if you took the shortest route, which you would if you were going there for any other purpose than his own. He assessed the ground as he walked. The rough grass was unlikely to hold any tracks but dogs might be useful. Later.
He walked without hurry, scanning the ground. Saw nothing, but stuck to the mantra he’d had dinned into him in training: there is nothing to be gained from speed and many things that can be lost. Stop often, look all ways. What you see won’t harm the case, but what you miss will. Put everything else aside and just look.
He paused to orientate himself again; changed direction slightly to go around the huts from the far side, still seeing nothing that didn’t belong there. The sea was to his left now and he could see the place as it had been described, where three stone huts formed an alcove. Just look. From this angle, this distance, he couldn’t see very much. A shape: a bundle of clothes perhaps. He took a photograph, looked again to be sure he’d missed nothing, then he went closer.
He stopped again, three metres distant, looking at the ground around him first. There? A cigarette butt, fairly fresh. It was too soon to start picking up every scrap he came across until he had a better idea of the whole. Instead he opened the case, took out a marker flag and planted it in the ground near the butt. When he straightened up he let himself look ahead. Now, because he knew it was a body, that was what he saw. He couldn’t help that. But if you didn’t know – if you came across this scene when a body was the last thing you’d expect – well then, you still might not recognise it. Clothes, weeds, grass. He took another photograph and moved forward, watching where he stepped.
Finally he was at the entrance to the square niche formed by the stone walls. Facing him, at head height on the wooden beam were the words “Fuck the Whales”. He put down the forensic case and photographed the graffiti first, although it was impossible to know whether it was relevant or not. Then he shot a dozen photographs of the body: a couple wide-angled to establish the scene, then close-ups, to make up a mosaic, capturing the situation exactly as he found it.
When he’d done that he lowered the camera, took a couple of steps forward and simply looked. He noticed how the weeds were flattened near her feet, which were clad in leather boots: urban wear, not for hiking. Jeans, crumpled up where the waistband had been dragged down to her knees along with her panties. Lace, not utilitarian cotton.
Her exposed skin showed no obvious signs of bruising or scratches and he noted that her blue sweatshirt was zipped up at the bottom, just a few centimetres, then open to show a black tee shirt beneath. There was a short tear in the black cotton and a dark stain around it about the size of a five kroner coin – blood almost certainly. Hentze assessed that for a few seconds, then examined her neck – what he could see of it above the rumpled hood of the sweatshirt. There were no marks there, just part of a gold chain visible against the skin.
Her head was tilted to one side with long black hair across her face, some of it tangled in the weeds, probably by the wind. Hentze reached down and moved the hair back from her face, teasing it gently away from the plants. Her eyes were closed – defined by a little make-up, not much – and her skin had the waxy semi-translucence of death. Still no sign of injury. She was in her early thirties, Hentze guessed. After a moment he raised the camera again. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s my job.”
“Her ex posed skin showe d no obvious signs of bruising”
To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of The Killing Bay, out now from Titan Books. Also available as an ebook.